Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Jan 16, 2013 10:26 AM

Horsemeat found in prepared burgers in UK & Ireland Supermarket supply chain

In the UK there has very recently been a supply chain recall regarding prepared burgers from a number of larger European supermarket supply chains, following analysis conducted by the Irish Food Safety Agency

AFAIK, I've not eaten these myself, as I'm personally not a fan of the generic supermarket brand pre-made frozen meat patty and prefer to make my own burgers from scratch.

Was wondering how fellow C'hounders opinions about this type of product mis-description / supply chain failure.

This happened in Europe - does this type of food issue occur in the US?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I thought horse meat was pretty common in both those countries.

    I can imagine that here in the states there are a lot of mystery things in generic ground meat here. Isn't there an "acceptable" amount of bugs, droppings etc?

    16 Replies
    1. re: foodieX2

      I don't think the issue is really just "horse meat, ew, gross" but rather that the products were advertised and sold as beef, but had traces of both horse and pork meat in them. So there is there is an issue of false/incorrect label. Apparently, the food producers were either using horse and pork as extenders or were not properly cleaning grinders and/or packing equipment between batches. Either way, it raises concerns about the overall safety of the products. Of course, there is a certain gross-out factor if you don't routinely consume horse meat, then find out you inadvertently did. Even if consuming horse is acceptable/common (relative to the US), it doesn't make it OK to slip horse meat into a product sold as beef.

      1. re: mpjmph

        <<Even if consuming horse is acceptable/common (relative to the US), it doesn't make it OK to slip horse meat into a product sold as beef. >>

        Of course not, especially if there are dietary/religious issues.

        My point is that I am sure this happens in the US too. BBK (or was it McD's) fries cooked in beef tallow and Purdue chicken processed with dairy, corn and peanuts are just two examples that pop in my head.

        1. re: foodieX2

          It was McD's with the beef tallow. There was a huge from non-beef eaters when they found out, and McD's had to change their practices. Products are also recalled all the time when allergens or key ingredients are left off the label. So yes, it happens in the US, and the reaction when it does happen is pretty similar to what we're seeing in the UK right now.

          1. re: mpjmph

            exactly. What is happening in the UK is not unique.

          2. re: foodieX2

            Fries cooked in beef tallow, without making the consumer aware, is incomplete information. Horse meat sold as beef is an outright misrepresentation. The latter seems to be a much greater sin IMHO.

            1. re: Rmis32

              in the UK, we traditonally fry chips in beef dripping, although an increasing number of places fry in vegetable oil. I would take the view that it's incumbent on someone averse to eating beef products to check whether a place uses it for frying.

              There seems to be growing evidence that the horsemeat in the beef scandal is due to criminal acitvity - although where the crime has been committed is anyone's guess at present.

              The latest product to be discovered with horsemeat is lasagne produced by Findus and sold in the UK, France & Sweden. If I have understood the complexities of the food supply chain correctly, it starts with a contract being offered to a French company. However, the lasagne was made in Luxembourg. The company which made it sourced the meat from Poland. The Polish supplier had bought the meat from an abatoir in Romania. So, that's five countries involved in getting a dead horse into a lasagne on sale at a supermarket five minutes away from me.

              1. re: Harters

                BBC Radio 4's Food Programme is devoted to this issue this week:


                This isn't just about the dna of the meat, which is how horsemeat can be identified. Horsemeat can contain butozoladin; according to Wikipedia, "In the United States and United Kingdom, it is no longer approved for human use, as it can cause severe adverse effects such as suppression of white blood cell production and aplastic anemia."

                1. re: Harters

                  Correction. Not Poland, but Cyprus. Allegedly.

          3. re: foodieX2

            I can't speak for Ireland but I have never seen horse meat here in the UK, it's more common in France and Belgium but becoming less so I think.
            It's also popular in Slovenia and I have seen pony carpaccio on menus there.

            Personally i haven't got a problem with eating horse and would probably try it if it was available.

            1. re: foodieX2

              Horse meat has never been part of the culinary tradition in the UK. The British are probably the most animal-loving people in Europe so the concept of eating horse meat is shocking to the general public, hence the outroar.

              1. re: Roland Parker

                While that may be the case there are several places in the UK that do raise horses for consumption. They have been interviewed on the BBC and noted that the publicity has actually increased their sales. The so called benefits of horse meat are similar to the same claims made for bison, ostrich and the like.. high in protein lower in fat.

                We are probably going to find that the problem is being caused by poor sanitary standards at processing plants rather than an overt attempt to substitute horse meat for beef.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  No, the French have already uncovered that horsemeat was shipped, labeled and invoiced properly as horsemeat, to the Spanghero plant in SW France.

                  Mysteriously, this horsemeat disappeared -- the only meat billed as leaving this factory was marked and labeled as beef. They have since had a significant portion of their operations shut down yesterday (some operations were re-opened this morning).

                  The general belief all across Europe is that this was a willing scam to maximize profits by pulling the wool over the eyes of the consumers across Europe.

                  The jury is still out for Comigel -- the company to whom most of Spanghero's products were shipped -- the ministry of health in France said flat-out that there is no record of any testing of product received from Spanghero, and that there is no excuse for Comigel's employees not having known the difference between beef and horsemeat (it's a significant difference in appearance and aroma) - (my comment) -- Comigel has self-blinded -- while they not have technically done anything wrong, the minister's view is that they knew darned well it was going on and chose to ignore it.

                  There is also an enormous amount of speculation that this is pre-meditated fraud, and criminal proceedings are still under consideration.

              2. re: foodieX2

                Horse meat is definitely not a common meat to consume in any part of UK/Ireland. The BBC has stressed over and over in their reporting on radio that, while it is most unusual to see horse meat offered for food use in those countries, that is because of national preferences, not because there is a sanitation issue.

                I think the BBC World Service is being very careful NOT to suggest that the consumption of horse meat is unpalatable in and of itself. They do not wish to insult those countries in Europe where equine butchery is part of life.

                I think that improper labeling is at issue here, not the source of the meat...consumers should be equally concerned to find pork or lamb in a product labeled "beef".

                1. re: LJS

                  YES -- there is an enormous number of people who do not eat pork in Europe for religious reasons -- and in this entire investigation, it has come out that there has been pork mixed into some of these "beef" dishes, as well. As you can imagine, there are some folks who are extremely upset about this revelation.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Unless I've missed a report, I think the pork in the beef meatballs has been restricted to one supermarket's range here in the UK. It will be a shocker for them, as Waitrose is a our pemium supermarket chain -prides itself on high quality and a committment to local sourcing.The meatballs were prouced at a Scottish factory.


                    1. re: Harters

                      To be really honest, there are so many companies involved, in so many countries, I've completely lost track of what animal is in which products. (which is, ironically, exactly what Spanghero and Comigel were banking on.....)

              3. Horse meat is rarely available in the UK - other than as pet feed. Many UK residents probably would be very upset to discover the cow burgers they had bought actually contained horse meat. One of the samples was reported to contain 27% horse.

                Personally I am not bothered as I have willingly eaten horse in France where it is readily on sale.

                I have no problem in buying ready made burgers, although I will want my burger fully cooked unless I have minced (ground) the meat myself so know the source.

                Apparently they also discovered some pig DNA in some of the burgers as well, which could be upsetting to the non-pork eating religions.

                1. One way to reduce the risk of Mad Cow, eh?

                  1. Dining on a "pony burger" just sounds so wrong:(

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Lillipop

                      Horsemeat is consumed in many countries around the world.

                    2. Not to be a neigh sayer,

                      A. It is a report in the Guardian.

                      B. Horse meat is delicious.

                      C. You guys eat Sheppard's pie.

                      D. Be glad it isn't Haggis, the Irish and English agree on not liking the Scots (That's a joke, son, a joke)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: law_doc89

                        a. It is a report in ALL the European press.

                        b. In your opinion. Not everyone agrees.

                        c. Shepherd's pie is not made with shepherds -- it is made with lamb, a meat which is proudly raised to a very high standard in the UK and Europe, and is actually raised for human consumption, and British beef if some of the finest to be had. It's rather doubtful that the Romanian abattoir was following EU guidelines or choosing healthy animals fit for consumption.

                        d. If you'd ever actually eaten haggis, you'd know that it's really not as bad as it sounds.